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Dental staff meetings: Time to let the team shine

Nov. 22, 2023
Do your dental staff meetings serve to motivate team members and remedy challenges—or not so much? Read on for expert tips on meetings that can truly elevate your dental practice.
Elizabeth S. Leaver, Digital content manager

Good, productive staff meetings can elevate a dental practice and increase teamwork and camaraderie, serving to motivate, keep communication open, allow everyone to check in on goals, and remedy any challenges that come up.

But there are also those meetings that end up wasting everyone's time, or meetings that don’t happen at all because they’re not considered a priority.

Read on for dos and don'ts of productive and successful dental staff meetings.

Make it meaningful—every time

Kevin Tighe offers a wide range of advice for having successful meetings and stresses the importance of planning ahead of time what the meeting will be about.

“Meetings without agendas are usually unproductive. It doesn’t matter if the meeting takes place at a big corporation, a church, a social gathering, or anyplace else,” he notes. “Meetings need to cover specific points and then move on; otherwise they drag on and may involve things that aren’t valuable to the entire group.”

Steer clear of gripe sessions

Another of Tighe’s top tips: Avoid the temptation to use staff meetings as gripe sessions.

“Staff members should never be reprimanded for communicating. However, do not tolerate gossip, rumors, or causing a disturbance in the work area. Encourage staff to share their ideas for improving the practice’s services. Also, welcome suggestions to correct situations that might be hindering efficiency.”

Give everyone a voice

“Our practice has four doctors, six hygienists, six dental assistants, and five business assistants. I really love this practice except for one thing—staff meetings. And it’s not just me. All of us dread staff meetings.” What does longtime contributor Dianne Glasscoe Watterson advise a dental practice experiencing consistently dreadful meetings? At their core, she notes, good meetings involve each team member feeling equally valued and being called on to share ideas, input, and concerns.

Successful huddles and football

What makes a morning huddle analogous to a close game? “They usually require repetition and execution day-in and day-out by teams during practices," says Kelly Sullivan, RDH. "The coach’s playbook is full of different scenarios and plays waiting for the perfect moment to use them when the game gets down to the wire. When that time arrives, the coach calls a time out and has everyone huddle around to see what the big play will be.”

"It's your own fault"

Deana Zost encourages practices to reframe the idea of a huddle to a "morning tailgate" where teammates cheer each other on. She says many dentists have told her they don’t have a morning meeting yet complain about frustrations and schedule issues, to which she offers: “I tell them it’s their own fault… You cannot go into your practice for the day without a plan.”

Let team members take charge

If you dread team meetings because they’re repetitive, unproductive, and painful, then you can feel pretty confident your employees dislike them even more, notes consultant Sharyn Weiss, who goes on to advise dentist-bosses to take a back seat and let team members take control. It may be counterintuitive, she says, but in the end it can increase participation and team motivation.